Last night’s Lifetime movie The Perfect Daughter was surprisingly poignant and understated in places, despite what the promos had me believe. I mostly just felt really bad for the father of the titular daughter, who was just doing the best he could and got a whole lot of shit in return. Ugh, teenagers.
The daughter I’m talking about is Natalie (Sadie Calvano), a straight-A high school student who reads ahead for her classes and wins the school election for treasurer. She’s the stereotypical Lifetime movie good girl, so it’s only a matter of time before she goes bad.
A matter of hours, in fact. She’s invited to the school hockey game by newly elected class president Sam (Reiley McClendon), a rich boy who just broke up with his bitchy girlfriend. After the game Natalie goes to his house to hang out. When her dad picks her up, she’s totally bombed and talking back to him. What the hell, a few hours ago she was a ray of perfect, responsible sunshine!
You really can’t blame her father Martin (Brady Smith) for this. He’s been raising Natalie on his own since his wife died of cancer when she was four. (That’s right, for once there’s a single dad. Lifetime has become Disney.) He’s attentive and involved, and he helped Natalie with her speech for student council. He also makes her an ice cream sundae to celebrate and wants to play a board game! He only allows Natalie to go to Sam’s house knowing that his parents, with whom Martin is acquainted, will be there. At 11, he goes to pick her up and ends up having to take her to the hospital for alcohol poisoning.
Because the admitting nurse found blood on her, a detective is called in to determine if any sexual assault occurred. Natalie says she and Sam had consensual sex, but that doesn’t stop the police from going to the house to break up the party, and for everyone at school to hear about how drunk she was last night. Natalie is really not happy that her classmates are talking about her, and she holds it against her dad. It’s like she took some kind of potion to become angsty overnight. Girlie, he saved you from alcohol poisoning and has been nothing but concerned about you. Show a little respect.
Meanwhile, Sam’s dad Bruce (Parker Stevenson) claims he had no idea that the kids were drinking and having sex in his own house, because I guess it’s just so big that who knows what goes on, am I right, rich people? He is also not happy to hear that Natalie had a rape kit done at the hospital. You can tell by how he hits the billiard ball when he finds out about it. Oh, rich people.
Martin is getting increasingly worried about his daughter, so he ends up doing something pretty stupid. He hears from Natalie’s best friend that she saw Sam grab Natalie by the arm in the hallway, and she makes it sound way rougher than it actually was. This sets Martin to looking through the sexual assault pamphlet he got at the hospital and recognizing the symptoms in Natalie. So he calls the detective and claims that Natalie changed her story but isn’t ready to give a statement. They call Sam in to ask his side of the story the next day.
Because apparently it’s now customary for cops to leave detailed messages about a case on people’s answering machines for anyone to listen to, Natalie finds out what Martin did, and she is not happy about it. Much shouting ensues, and she’s all, “I acted my age for once in my life!” Well, good job with that, because now you’re pregnant. I knew this to be true at this point both because the movie’s promos revealed it and because Natalie has been feeling sick, which turns out to be teen pregnancy 100% of the time in these movies.
Natalie ends up revealing this news to her father when they get into another fight over her seeing Sam again. She utters the most Lifetimey line in the whole movie, which of course was used to promote it: “Well guess what Daddy, your whore daughter already got herself knocked up!”
Even though he’s understandably taken aback, Martin is still supportive even now, but Natalie is still really mad at him for a lot of stuff, including lying to her about her mom being a cheater who was going to leave them before she got sick. (This was revealed in a story Martin tells Sam’s mother Julie (Meredith Salenger) that takes way too long to get to the point.)
Oh, and I failed to mention earlier that Martin also lost his construction job because Bruce, who got him the job in the first place, was mad about how all of this has affected his son, who was just a victim of Martin’s “slut” daughter. Ah yes, typical wealthy father of the teenage baby daddy. He continues this trope by insisting Natalie get an abortion without her dad’s knowledge. Well, they don’t actually say the word “abortion.” They just talk about clinics and getting it taken care of and such.
When Martin sees that she’s sneaked out of the house, he rushes to Sam’s house to find out where she went and then punches Bruce in the face. (His wife is all “whatevs” about it.) Then it’s a race against the abortion. Natalie is given pills to take, and she ends up stealing Sam’s car when he’s not paying attention and driving to the Pink Motel, where her mom had her affair. Oh, how lovely. Martin and Sam find her, and she and Martin have a heart-to-heart that actually made me a little misty-eyed, goddammit.
Of course Natalie decides to keep the baby. I know it’s her choice, but it would be nice if for once these movies actually acknowledged abortion as more than just the villainous father’s evil plan or an option that’s briefly mentioned in euphemism and then promptly ignored because GASP, the heroine would never do that! Well, either that or she just magically loses the baby so nobody has to worry about that option being on the table.
Aaanyway, Martin ends up letting Natalie drive off with Sam, who’s actually been really nice through all of this. You might think this is a bad idea considering all the trouble Natalie has gotten herself into, but really, at this point, it’s not like she can get pregnant again, am I right? #Sigh.